Over the last 14 years that I have published this blog, I have compiled an annual review with a list of key Delaware corporate and commercial decisions that have widespread utility to practitioners, especially those court decisions that are not widely covered by other legal publications or the mainstream press. On a few occasions, I

A recent Delaware Court of Chancery decision provides noteworthy rulings on the limited scope of a Section 225 summary proceeding regarding the proper composition of the board of directors, as well as the notice requirements for a written consent in lieu of a stockholders’ meeting pursuant to Section 228 of the Delaware General Corporation Law

Kurz v. Holbrook, No. 5019-VCL (Del. Ch., Feb. 9, 2010), read opinion here. This 80-page Delaware Court of Chancery opinion decided an expedited claim based on DGCL Section 225, challenging the election of board members.

Important Groundbreaking Issues Addressed.

This opinion is must reading for anyone who would seek to remove a sitting director or try to reduce the number of directors on a board. This decision addresses for the first time whether a bylaw amendment can reduce the size of a board. See, e.g., Slip op. at 24. This decision is also required reading due to its treatment of the issues that arise in connection with the right to vote shares that are held in street name, some of which are addressed authoritatively by a Delaware court for the first time. See, e.g., Slip op. at 60. The "underdeveloped" topic of "third-party vote buying" in connection with corporate elections is also addressed in a scholarly fashion, noting that the analysis is different than what might apply in the political arena. See, e.g., Slip op. at 64-65.

One of the best ways to highlight an opinion of "law review article length" for purposes of a blog, is to use the overview of the case provided by the Court itself in the opinion. The Court’s introduction to the case follows verbatim:

This post-trial opinion resolves competing requests for relief under Section 225 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (the “DGCL”). 8 Del. C. § 225. At stake is control of the board of directors (the “Board”) of EMAK Worldwide, Inc. (“EMAK” or the “Company”).

Prior to December 18, 2009, the Board had six directors and one vacancy. On December 18, one director resigned, creating a second vacancy. The plaintiffs contend that on December 20 and 21, Take Back EMAK, LLC (“TBE”) delivered sufficient consents (the “TBE Consents”) to remove two additional directors without cause and fill three of the vacancies with Philip Kleweno, Michael Konig, and Lloyd Sems. Incumbent director Donald Kurz is a member of TBE. The TBE Consents, if valid, would establish a new Board majority.

The defendants contend that on December 18, 2009, Crown EMAK Partners, LLC (“Crown”) delivered sufficient consents (the “Crown Consents”) to amend EMAK’s bylaws in two important ways. First, the Crown Consents purportedly amended Section 3.1 of the bylaws (“New Section 3.1”) to reduce the size of the Board to three directors. Because Crown has the right to appoint two directors under the terms of EMAK’s Series AA Preferred Stock, reducing the board to three, if valid, would give Crown a Board majority. Second, the Crown Consents purportedly added a new Section 3.1.1 to the bylaws (“New Section 3.1.1”) providing that if the number of sitting directors exceeds three, then the EMAK CEO will call a special meeting of stockholders to elect the third director, who will take office as the singular successor to his multiple predecessors. The defendants contend that the bylaw amendments are valid and that the next step is for the EMAK CEO to call a special meeting.

I hold that the bylaw amendments adopted through the Crown Consents conflict with the DGCL and are void. They were therefore ineffective to shrink the Board or to require the calling of a special meeting. I hold that the TBE Consents validly effected corporate action. The Board therefore consists of incumbent directors Kurz, Jeffrey Deutschman, and Jason Ackerman, and newly elected directors Kleweno, Konig, and Sems. One vacancy remains.

In addition to seeking relief under Section 225, the parties have asserted a panoply of claims, cross-claims, and third-party claims, and they have amassed an extensive record relating to those claims. My decision addresses only the requests for relief under Section 225, and I have sought to avoid resolving factual disputes that could have collateral implications if the other claims proceed. Contemporaneously with the issuance of this opinion, I am entering a partial final judgment under Rule 54(b) to implement my decision, thereby facilitating a prompt appeal should the defendants wish to pursue it. 


Continue Reading Delaware Court of Chancery Rules on Contested Board Elections in Expedited Section 225 Suit; Addresses Issues of First Impression on Reduction in Board Size, and Voting Rights; Re: Street Name v. Stock Ledger